Developers say red tape nobbles city growth

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 17/05/2014
Rototuna
Peter Drury/Fairfax NZ

FINAL FRONTIER: New houses under construction in The Meadows subdivision, one of four major residential developments in Hamilton’s Rototuna North area. Some developers argue the council is too slow at opening up new land for housing.

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A bullish Waikato economy and demand for sections in Hamilton's top-end subdivisions is fuelling feverish development in the city's northeast.

Earthworks and building sites pepper the landscape across Rototuna North, as work on four major residential developments gathers pace.

But the upturn in Hamilton's housing sector comes with a warning - with industry insiders saying council red tape and a looming shortage of residential zoned land could nobble the city's growth.

Property developer Ian Patton, who is developing the Glaisdale subdivision at Rototuna, said two consecutive dry summers had enabled contractors to push ahead with infrastructure and roading work.

Glaisdale had consent for 150 lots and was six months ahead of schedule.

Despite the flurry of development across Hamilton's northeast, the city council was reluctant to spend money on infrastructure and slow to rezone land, Patton said.

"The future really worries me because the land that is available for residential development is being gobbled up and it takes council up to five years to rezone land," he said.

"People will be forced into high-density housing because traditional housing and traditional development has been stymied.

"If buyers don't want that, they'll have to go to Pokeno or Cambridge."

Hamilton City Council city infrastructure general manager Chris Allen said growing a city relied "significantly" on the council developing good partnerships with developers.

The council and Kirkdale Investments were working together on the early planning stages of the Rototuna Town Centre. Allen said the council had a role through its district plan and the resource consents process to work with developers to ensure the city had good growth.

"Funding growth is a significant challenge for us all but it is a great challenge to have when it all leads to a dynamic and vibrant city," he said.

Hamilton had a number of "growth cells" and the council had developed a growth funding policy that set out a way for developers to continue to grow the city but to pay for the infrastructure that the council might normally invest in.

Murray Wallace, director of Blue Wallace Surveyors, said although the city council was good to deal with, the Resource Management Act was frustrating development.

Blue Wallace Surveyors was engaged by the Ryvington Trust to manage the consenting and construction of The Meadows subdivision.

The subdivision was about halfway through its development and when complete would have about 450 sections.

Wallace said housing companies and land developers were "working as fast and frantically as they can" to keep up with consumer demand but the city was running out of residential-zoned land.

The process to open up new land was arduous and slow.

"The way the Resource Management Act is set up, everyone has got the right to object and become involved in the process. So when you get the little peaks in the market you literally can't react to it because you can only move as fast as the planning process," he said.

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Tristan Jones, of the Cyndicate Property Group, said the council was responding to the needs of a growing city but he thought the continued growth to the north was not the best option for Hamilton.

"I would suggest it [council] would be better to look at intensification of the city rather than more suburban sprawl out north," Jones said.

Tainui Group Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio said Hamilton was "exceptionally well-positioned" to grow and to service growth.

The development at Waikato Hospital, and the city's supply of quality schools and tertiary providers, made Hamilton an increasingly popular choice with families, Pohio said.

"When people are making long-term decisions about where they'd like to live, it's not just the price of houses and so forth, it's all the things within a community that are the package."

WHO'S DOING WHAT IN ROTOTUNA NORTH

Ian Patton – Glaisdale subdivision

Ryvington Trust – The Meadows

Cyndicate Property Group Ltd – Eton Estate

CDL Land NZ Ltd – Ashmore subdivision

Kirkdale Investments together with Hamilton City Council is working on the early planning stages of the Rototuna Town Centre 

- Waikato Times

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